“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God – not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” –2 Corinthians 3:1 – 3
A lot of feeling and reaction can come from a letter. We get so much junk in our mailbox – ads, coupons for things no one wants to buy (those poor, dead trees), bills, politicians begging for a vote because their actions don’t speak well for them. But think about the warm pleasure we get when receiving a hand-written letter from a friend, a rare occurrence these days. Think about how excited children (and some adults… okay, me) are when they receive a birthday card. If there wasn’t pleasure in writing and reading a letter, people wouldn’t spend so much money and time on Christmas cards, especially the ones that come with a “year in our lives” update on the family.
Think of the comforting power of hand-written notes and letters to offer sympathy and condolence, or the devastation that can be delivered when the military sends a person to hand-deliver the written news that a loved one is never coming home again.
Letters are powerful.
Those were my thoughts when I read this verse from 2 Corinthians. Maybe it’s because I love writing, especially letters to friends (though I haven’t in quite a long time, so there’s my reminder). Maybe it’s because I love receiving a random, hand-written card or note reminding me how fiercely loved I am. It is terrifyingly wonderful to think that we are just as powerful, that we are hand-written letters meant to be read by the world. That’s a lot of pressure.
Our hearts are letters to be read. That means our hearts are meant to be open and available for reading.
It’s a compelling reminder to me that the walls I construct around my heart not only prevent me from being read by the world as a love letter to them; they also prevent me from reading all the walking love letters surrounding me every day. How sad to know so many letters go unread.
What would it look like if even a handful of us tore down those walls and started purposely acting like a love letter sent to a world that is hurting, grief-stricken, lonely, and scared? We will certainly be in danger of being hurt in return. It is certainly daunting. We will absolutely have times when we feel lonely and alone. There will be grief. It will suck. It is hard to sit with people in their hurt, grief, and aloneness and take the time to really see them without squirming. (“Squirming” includes trying to make it better with platitudes and trite sayings, setting a mental timer to stay only 15 minutes at the funeral home or hospital, and convincing ourselves we are too busy to help and someone else will surely be there. Squirming is sympathy without empathy.)
Then again, the letters that are the most valuable – the ones we keep in our boxes with old photos and trinkets – are the ones from people who see us and who minister to our hearts. Those are the letters that stick with us. We keep love letters, encouragement, the funny birthday cards from our children.
That’s my charge to myself, then: to be brave, to open my heart to people and let them read the letters written there, to get knocked down by some of those people, to fail epically on many occasions, and to choose to keep my heart open anyway.
Because if my heart is a hand-written letter then it follows that the letter was written on purpose for someone to read. And I would never want to get in the way of someone reading.